BLUEFIELD — Professional baseball has been part of summer in Mercer County every year since 1957 but will not play a game this summer.
Minor League Baseball, as expected, announced Tuesday that it would have to cancel the seasons of all of its leagues after Major League Baseball informed them that they would not send players to the team.
All minor league teams, including the Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays, receive their players from their affiliated MLB organization who pays the salaries of the players and coaches on top of other expenses.
The challenges of playing a season were insurmountable due to the coronavirus pandemic and the changes that would have been necessitated to keep everyone safe.
“This is going to be the summer that wasn’t unfortunately but with the pandemic and the uncertainty of being able to maintain the required precautions set forth we’re looking at this point just to protect our players and fans and staff,” said Rocky Malamisura, General Manager of the Bluefield Blue Jays.
The season for the Blue Jays and Rays was scheduled to start June 22 when they faced off in the first game of the 2020 Mercer Cup.
Getting players ready for the season would have taken time and resulted in a very short season. The MLB is only having a 60-game schedule, instead of the usual 162 games, with the first pitch July 23.
“We’ve gone so far into the year now logistically, if you look, if they tried to bring those kids in now you’re probably five weeks out,” Malamisura said.
The impact locally is not only on the entertainment the games provides but economically the two teams bring in around $10-15 million combined.
“Number one is economic development. We figure between Bluefield and Princeton it’s probably close to $15 million and this is for 34 days and then the employee part,” said George McGonagle, President of the Bluefield Baseball Club, Friday when he was inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame.
The teams hire local high school and college kids to work on the 34 game days each team has, along with the income generated from hotels for visiting teams and meals for all players before and after each game.
This is the first year since Minor League Baseball was founded in 1901 that a season has not been played.
For some teams this will allow them to begin preparing for the 2021 season but not Bluefield or Princeton. They are on the list of towns that could be losing their teams if the MLB proposal to reduce the minor leagues by 40 teams is approved as the current agreement expires Sept. 30.
The Appalachian League would fold under the proposal with Pulaski the lone team keeping professional baseball and all others having the option to host a ‘Dream League’ team or a summer college baseball team.
— Contact Eric Walker at email@example.com